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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Explores Influence of Staff on Patients’ Perceptions of Discrimination and Satisfaction

Dr. Gabriel S. Tajeu, a post-doctoral fellow in the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham — in collaboration with Dr. Andrea L. Cherrington, associate professor in UAB’s division of preventive medicine and the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC), as well as Ms. Lynn J. Andreae, ­­­­­program coordinator, and Dr. Candice Prince, research assistant, in the division of preventive medicine — has assessed perceived discrimination as well as patient satisfaction in dealings with non-physician health care staff (i.e., front desk staff).

[Photo: Dr. Gabriel S. Tajeu]

From June to November 2008, the researchers conducted a dozen focus group interviews with 55 African American and 37 White participants, classified by race and gender. Using a topic guide to assist in discussion and to help identify elements that promoted perceived discrimination — in addition to analyzing transcripts for significant contributing themes — apparent discrimination was linked primarily to insurance or socioeconomic status as well as race. Patients’ perception of how they were treated was associated with both verbal and nonverbal communication styles.

The results of the study by Dr. Tajeu and colleagues suggest that “[t]he behaviors of non-physician health care staff in the clinical setting can potentially contribute to patients’ perceptions of discrimination and lowered patient satisfaction. Future interventions to reduce health care discrimination should include a focus on staff cultural competence and customer service skills.”

“ ‘We’ll Get to You When We get to You’: Exploring Potential Contributions of Health Care Staff Behaviors to Patient Perceptions of Discrimination and Satisfaction” was published in August in the American Journal of Public Health.

Journal article: